Navigating the Complexities of Sustainable Fruit Stickers
By Duncan Jones, Senior Marketing Manager
Manufacturing PLU fruit stickers with a compostable construction (adhesive, face stock and inks) to meet food safety standards, certification requirements and performance requirements is no easy task!
It requires materials that will compost easily in ambient temperatures but also stay on fruit all the way through to the consumers' fruit bowl. The label must withstand application in demanding packinghouse environments, survive its journey through the entire supply chain (it can be weeks), arrive on a retail shelf, and then be disposed of in home compost or a composting facility. The characteristics that make a sticker compostable can easily detract from the characteristics needed to survive this challenging process.
Timebound: development & testing
Identifying, manufacturing and testing eco-friendly materials is challenging but continues apace as we work to meet industry needs globally. Sustainable PLU sticker development has gained momentum as more suitable eco-friendly materials become available. This allows for faster development, but with testing taking up to 6 months for industrial compostable products and 12 months for home compostable PLU stickers, time is a significant factor in achieving OK compost - industrial or home - certification or legislative and regulatory requirements. When a material does not pass testing requirements, then often it's a case of 'back to the drawing board' to develop and manufacture a new material for meeting OK compost certification and market requirement deadlines (France, for example).
A key challenge is the need for a standardized approach, either regionally or globally. The current approach is fragmented with different regulatory, legislative, or voluntary requirements issued differently in multiple markets. Although it is all with the best intentions, it presents challenges for development, customers, supply chain and costs.
Recently the CPMA released its guidance document for the fresh produce industry entitled Rational and Guidance for Migrating to Certified Industrial Compostable PLU Stickers; this document is only a guideline based on industry input and collaboration. There are no regulatory requirements at this time, but the CPMA is taking the initiative for positive change. As well as supporting the CPMA, Sinclair is actively working with organizations and customers in Europe and New Zealand to facilitate change and find practical solutions to the challenges.
Being at the forefront of all key industry milestones, our team understands the pressures on our customers and the industry. Standard(s) harmonization allows a more focused development of sustainable products as well as time to develop effective supporting infrastructure (composting facilities) where needed. It also allows sustainable PLU stickers to be more widely available, satisfying consumer demand and allowing the industry to realize the benefits of a minimal packing solution - traceability, identification, origin, brand and more.
The future: a solution for all
We have a range of compostable label solutions already available to meet different customer and market requirements which we continually improve and we currently have a new compostable PLU sticker in testing, which we expect to launch in Q1 2024. This new sticker will be a game changer for fresh produce labeling. It is designed to be both home and industrial certified compostable, enabling customers to comply with all current legislative requirements around the world with one label. It will also be Sinclair's best-performing compostable label, adhering to most commodities like a conventional label and performing better than all other compostable labels on the market today.
Back to News & Events